Depressing endings vs. Happy endings

Discussion in 'General' started by _pi_, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. _pi_

    _pi_ Peace, bitch

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    I've been contemplating a bit on these two types of endings, depressing and happy, in horror movies.

    Or rather, I've been thinking about the tendancy some people seem to have have; to think of happy endings as inferior. And that if one must decide between the two types, a depressing ending is the "better" choice. (I am refering only to horror films here). I've seen this come up time and time again, especially on this forum. It's not that people flat out proclaim that a depressing ending is always better, but sometimes I get that feeling.

    I'm constantly seeing comments like "that ending was great because everybody died" or "I didn't like how it ended because too many people lived ..." Or whatever.

    Example:
    I watched 28 Days Later yesterday, a film I really love. I went to search the forums for discussions on the film and found that a lot of people disagreed about the ending ...

    Some felt that the "they all survive" ending was lame and that it should have ended with a) Jim dying or b) everybody dying, which is what happens in the alternative ending and storyboard ending on the DVD. I completely disagree. For one, if Jim had died it would have rendered void the underlying theme of male/female survival instinct (wherein Selena, the hunter for most part of the film, gives up her weapon to Jim when he accepts his "formal" role as hunter in the end - not my opinion, it's right there in the film!), and it also would have nullified the sense of hope the film had been building up since the beginning. It would have turned the film into a huge, depressing downer.

    Without spoiling any particular movie, I just want to discuss this happy/depressing thing a bit. In my opinion, the ending should be just as the film requires it to be.

    If it is the film's natural progression to be depressing, then so be it. If it is not, I see no reason for it to be other than happy. However, I kinda get the feeling more and more horror film fans want their horror to end badly rather than the other way (which in itself is understandable, because happy endings in horror films diffuse the (hopefully) achieved effect of disturbing us).

    But sometimes I think depressing endings undermine what has already been built up. A lot of great horror films have hopeful endings.

    So ... discuss! :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  2. Paff

    Paff Super Moderator

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    *** Untagged 28 Days Later spoilers in this post! ***

    (and yes, I know how to use spoiler tags, but there will be 28DL comments and references sprinkled throughout this post...easier to just warn ahead of time instead of Spoiler and /Spoilering)

    Anyway, this may seem like the obvious answer as to depressing/happy endings, but it all depends on the direction of the film. A movie with a dark, hopeless concept that suddenly turns bright and sunny is jarring and unrealistic. Similarly, a movie that's about surviving and living happy is dashed to pieces if the main character dies. Of course, that can work if done properly, but other times it just feels forced.

    In 28 Days Later, the idea is that mankind is doomed. The military compound is the only hope for survival, yet decent people are better off fending for themselves. More importantly, the compound is not as safe as the military seems to think it is (Jim razes it).

    I don't mind that Jim lives. But I have a problem with the revelation that the UK is the only place in the world with infection (which the ending pretty much confirms). If they had ended with the trio alone in the cabin, wondering if they'll ever meet other survivors, that's fine. And Jim seeing the plane while on the run from the military leads to speculation of other survivors, but does not confirm the "quarantine" theory.

    Lucio Fulci's films were full of down endings. There's a case where either a happy ending or a depressing ending would work. The films don't really go in one direction or the other, necessarily. The choice of a depressing ending, while often negating the efforts of the main characters throughout the entire movie, still works. Yet you can just as easily imagine happy endings in those movies without it damaging the story.

    Bottom line is, if you're making a movie about the end of mankind, it's really hard to throw in a happy ending and make it believable.
     
  3. _pi_

    _pi_ Peace, bitch

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    *** MORE 28 DAYS LATER SPOILERS, UNTAGGED! ***

    However, in my opinion, it's pretty illogical that the virus would spread worldwide or even outside the UK.

    Since it takes only 10-20 seconds to cause damage, the infected would have killed everyone on board airplanes and ships going away from the UK, if indeed they could board them. And I doubt they can fly or steer said vehicles.

    Then there are trains ... ok, but don't you think other nations around would have taken precaution as soon as the problem became as serious as it did?

    As one character says in the film: the UK is an island so of course it's been quarantined! Or that's what I think is most logical.
     
  4. KillerCannabis

    KillerCannabis Slow, Deep & Hard

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    I personally prefer a depressing ending. [/i]Most[/i] of the time. There are those scant few occassions where I feel the film merits a nice wrap-up where everyone is safe and sound, but most of the time I watch my films as more of a pragmatist and think that downbeat is the way to go. The way it should be. Reality. A great example would be what Romero originally planned for the ending to Dawn Of The Dead. I think that would have better suited the film and officially "ended" the journey these characters were on. Or Spielberg's War Of The Worlds, which didn't have to end on such a high note. If Stevie were more of a realist he would have given the film the ending that it needed. Not the sap-fest we were left to digest. There are a lot more examples. I'm just saying for my money I don't like to see things end with our characters back to being "normal" or "safe" once again.
     
  5. MorallySound

    MorallySound Mad Mutilator

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    Depressing, the majority of the times. Sometimes a happy ending does work better, but most times not.
     
  6. walkingdude

    walkingdude Megatron

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    I think it depends on how "happy" the ending is.There are some where the ending is so joyous and happy that it turns the stomach.There are a few Stephen King movies that qualify there.The Fog remake comes to mind as well.
     
  7. Copyboy

    Copyboy Well-Known Member

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    I prefer the downbeat endings. They seem to leave a stronger impression and carry a more powerful punch.

    Even run of the mill slasher movies that may seem to have "happy" endings where the killer dies aren't really happy. The sole survivor has just lost all her friends and usually her boyfriend too. I think Friday the 13th Part 3 addressed this well when Jason was "dead" but Dana Kimmell went crazy. Actually, that was pretty funny.
     
  8. DeathDealer

    DeathDealer I Inhale Horror

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    I prefer Downbeat endings, also.
     
  9. Numania

    Numania Guest

    I prefer depressing endings due to my love of Greek Tragedy. I think it releases more energy through catharsis than a happy ending can.
     
  10. RyanPC

    RyanPC Guest

    I find myself much more satisfied with a film if it has a downbeat ending because it plays with your emotions. Any film can make you feel good, but the ones that can make you feel sad or depressed when you walk out of the theater are truly successful.
     
  11. Jamm

    Jamm J'aime les cadavres

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    Well said Ryan. My two favorite movies, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, and Black Christmas, are shining examples of great endings.
     
  12. Rock

    Rock Member

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    I HATE downbeat endings in horror movies! So many good ones are ruined by their stupid, unnecessary last-minute shocks...and HOUSE OF 1K CORPSES was one of the worst...
     

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